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24/06/20 Global entrepreneur drives international business growth from his home in Malin, Donegal

Damien Mc Clean

Damien McClean runs a global company called SIA Flexitanks from his home in Malin, Co. Donegal.


“Donegal is the ideal location to drive your business” says Damien Mc Clean, CEO of SIA Flexitanks based in Malin, Donegal, “there are no barriers to growth. The cost of housing is so much lower than other places, the education system and talent pool is world class, the business support is phenomenal and there is a real sense of community.”


While many people have recently embraced new ways of working due to the COVID-19 crisis, it is just another day for Damien who first left Donegal in the 1980’s and returned to Malin in 2007, from where he now runs his global bulk liquid transportation company.


“I left Donegal in the 1980s to explore the logistics industry and during this time I was based in many different locations all over the world including London, Southampton, and Houston. In 1999, I developed my own product and set up SIA Flexitanks in 2011. And in 2007, after many years on the road, I decided it was time to move back to my homeplace, Malin, to be closer to my family and continue to build my international business,” reflects Damien.


Damien’s business, SIA Flexitanks, specialises in global bulk liquid transportation. “We ship everything from wine and olive oil to mineral water, around the world in flexible tankers. Our tankers allow companies to transport larger quantities of product at once, reducing carbon footprints, saving valuable space and money. We have customers in 65 countries all over the world and employ salespeople across 4 continents in locations such as Holland, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand and Texas.”


And while he has lived in many locations throughout the world, Damien never really settled outside his beloved Malin. “As my children grew older, I felt it was the right time to relocate back home. The quality of education in Ireland is exceptional and I wanted my children to go to school here. Although I had great experiences living in the US, the UK and elsewhere, I never really unpacked my suitcase. I always wanted to come back to Donegal. Although I still take business trips, at least now when the plane touches back down, I am home.” 


The slower pace of life in Malin hasn’t dampened the growth of SIA Flexitanks, as operations continue to expand. “The consumption of wine has rocketed in the past decade so the demand for our service has soared.”


The high level of talented people in Donegal has been a real driver for SIA Flexitanks says Damien, “The quality of talent and skills in Donegal is outstanding and I was able to build a team in Carndonagh with international corporate expertise. I was able to source a local Donegal developer to build an access-based programme for my CRM, invoicing, and inventory systems.  The same team are still with me today. That is the great thing about running a business from Donegal, there is a really strong pool of dedicated and talented people here who are so happy to be able to work from Donegal. Staff retention is never a worry.”


Damien points to the quality of the business support services in Ireland as another big factor in enabling the growth of the company. “The support you get in Ireland is exceptional and there is such a strong emphasis on R &D, compared to other countries. I was incredibly lucky to be chosen by Enterprise Ireland to participate in an accelerator programme in partnership with Cambridge University in the UK, that enabled me to further develop and scale my business. The support you get here is not available anywhere else, Ireland is such a business-friendly country.”


And while the pace of life is more relaxed in Donegal, the speed of technology is not. “I have excellent connectivity at home, better than many worldwide cities I previously worked in. I can easily manage my global operations right from my home office. I have the best connectivity, support, and talent around me here in Donegal. Just recently, I closed a deal from Malin with a guy in Odessa on the Black Sea.”


“Each morning, I have conference calls with our sales team in the Philippines and Malaysia, in the afternoon I speak to the teams in Europe and at night I catch up with the team in Houston, Texas and if things get too stressful and I need to clear my head, it’s only a five minute walk to the magnificent Five Finger Strand beach.”


And it isn’t just Damien and his team that love the stunning Donegal landscape, his customers do too. “Many of our customers and suppliers have come over to visit Malin and holiday here. Just the other day, I received a call from a client in Salt Lake City who cannot wait to come over and visit again.”


“Donegal is the ideal location to work remotely, there are no barriers to growth. The cost of housing is so much lower than other places, the education system and talent pool is world class, the business support is phenomenal and there is a real sense of community.”


“But most of all, the quality of life here in Donegal is amazing. My only regret is that I didn’t move back sooner!”